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Don’t Let Back to School Mean Back to Allergy and Asthma Symptoms

September 11, 2019 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Prepare now so your child eases into a symptom-free year

By Sonal R. Patel, MD

For kids with allergies and asthma, summer break from school can also mean a break from their symptoms. When school starts up again in the fall, classrooms are often filled with allergy triggers kids don’t face at home, causing a return of allergy and asthma symptoms parents haven’t seen in their kids since school let out for the summer.

In the fall, I see an increase in kids’ visits to my practice for allergies and asthma. And hospitals experience what’s known as the September Spike because kids who have been off asthma controller medications for the summer start experiencing flare-ups in the fall. When kids return to school, they’re exposed to different allergens—in the classroom, out on the playing fields, and in the school cafeteria—many that they probably haven’t run into all summer. In addition, it’s ragweed season, and for kids who are allergic, it’s a terrible time of year.

Below are five tips to help children steer clear of fall allergies so they can focus on classwork and school activities rather than suffering from runny noses, headaches, and asthma attacks.

  • Find an allergist, find relief. Well before your child heads into the classroom, make an appointment to see a board-certified allergist. Your allergist will create an allergy action plan for your child by identifying triggers your child may run into and helping them understand what causes their symptoms. Children with asthma who are under the care of an allergist have a 77 percent reduction in lost time from school, and an allergist can set your child on the right track, for the long term, to handle their allergies or asthma.
  • Identify potential problems at school. Sometimes parents must act as detectives to root out asthma and allergy triggers at school. Does the school have new carpeting? Sometimes volatile organic compounds (known as VOCs) can result from new carpeting and cause wheezing and sneezing. Are there open windows where pollen can drift into the classroom? Is there a class pet that might be causing allergies? How about mold in the bathrooms? Potential triggers should be discussed with the teacher and school administrators so they can take action to help ease symptoms.
  • Get everyone out on the field! Children who have asthma or allergies should still be able to play any sport they choose as long as they follow their allergist’s advice. While playground games, physical education class, and after-school sports can all trigger exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), if your child’s asthma is under control, they should be able to participate. Asthma symptoms during exercise may indicate poorly controlled asthma. Make sure coaches and physical education teachers know what to do in case of an asthma-related event.
  • Consult an allergist to confirm a food allergy. Parents are sometimes given misinformation about food allergies thanks to home tests and unreliable sources. About 5 to 8 percent of children have diagnosed food allergies, and it’s important to work with an allergist to arrive at the diagnosis. If your child does have a food allergy, make sure the school is fully informed. Work with your allergist and school staff to create an action plan that lists the foods your child is allergic to, what treatment needs to be given, and emergency contact information.
  • Prep your child. Make sure you’ve discussed how to handle emergencies with your child. No matter what state you live in, your child has the right to carry and use asthma and anaphylaxis medications at school. Children who are at risk of anaphylaxis should have auto-injected epinephrine available to prevent this severe, life-threatening reaction caused by allergies to certain foods or insect stings. Be sure your child and school staff know how to use emergency medications.

A board-certified allergist is the specialist best trained to treat your child’s allergies or asthma. Work with the allergist to make sure that your child’s allergy medications are appropriate for their height and weight, their asthma action plan is up-to-date, and symptoms are under control.

To ensure you’re fully prepared for the fall, contact your allergist. If you need help locating one, use the “Find an Allergist” feature on the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s website (ACAAI.org/locate-an-allergist). You can also visit MyAllergyMD.com for more information.

About the Author: Sonal R. Patel, MD, is a mom of twin daughters and an allergist with Huntington Asthma and Allergy Center in Pasadena, California. She is double board-certified in allergy-clinical immunology and pediatrics. She is the coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Twins, Triplets, and More. You can find her on Twitter @TMommyMD.

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The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.